By Ben Agande & Emmanuel Elebeke
President Goodluck Jonathan, Tuesday, challenged public office holders to strive to be recognised by the quality of service they rendered while in office rather than the position they held, describing the late former Information Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, as a patriotic Nigerian who had no rivalry in service.
In a a remark at the requiem mass for the former Minister of Information, Dr. Dora Akunyili, at the Catholic Pro-Cathedral Church, Area 3, Garki, Abuja, President Jonathan said the late Prof. Akunyili would be etched in the memory of Nigerians for decades because of her sterling achievements, especially as Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.
While describing Professor Akunyili in superlative terms, the President said during her life time, she was “diligent, intelligent, extremely patriotic, extremely brave.”
The President said: “Dora was a professor of pharmacy. At the public level she served in Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, NAFDAC and then minister.
“Dora was more known as DG NAFDAC, more than when she served as a minister. Most Nigerians knew Dora because of her service. So most of the offices we look for, anybody who has opportunity to serve, we should all serve because what will endear you to people is not necessarily the office you hold, but the service you render. He urged Nigerians to emulate her life in public service.
“She sought to protect the lives of Nigerians as DG of NAFDAC and never compromised as regards those who traffic fake drugs.
“One thing that endeared her to me is that, probably I’m one president that has worked with so many women. At times, you noticed rivalry amongst women, but with her you never noticed any rivalry.
“Today, our dear sister has left us but to my brother, her husband, as the Bishop has told us about the the virtues of a good wife, you have to thank God you will get that respect as her husband because of her achievements.
“To my children, your mother was a very dynamic woman because her works and identity have given you what silver and gold cannot give you. Yes, it might not translate to monetary rewards, but many will respect and want to assist you as her children because of her.
In his homily at the Mass, the Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Hassan Matthew Kukah, said funerals should be one of the proudest moment as Christians as they serve as a reminder of the mortality of man.
“The reality of funerals is as Jesus demonstrated to us, that tears are part of our emotions as He wept for his friend, Lazarus.
“We know that Jesus went and came back. It is that simple act that Christians believe that death is the beginning of new life,” he said.
Late Dora Akunyili’s husband, Dr. Chike Akunyili, in his remarks on behalf of her family, extolled his late wife as a patriot who demonstrated her true love for her country, both in words and in deeds.
He thanked the President and his wife for the comfort they offered him in his moment of grief, adding that the special valedictory session by the Federal Executive Council, FEC, contributed in consoling him immensely.
He said: “When Dora died, I saw the special FEC session in her honour, that helped me in my grief. When I also had the opportunity to meet the President in his office, he held my hands and comforted me with kind words, saying, “give me any date for Dora, I will be there,” and today he is here.
“Dorothy is an elephant and if I start talking about her we will not leave. We went to Florida, and there at the immigration, they told her, ‘look, you are an American citizen (because she won the lottery and that was what favoured us). And here you are, you have a Nigerian diplomatic passport, you must surrender one.
“She used her left hand to drop her green card and retained her diplomatic passport. So you can see the level of her love for this country.
“Once in her local government, they brought a trailer load of fertilisers, what did Dorathy do? She shared all to the community. They told her that this was not how it is done and she said, this is how it will be done.
“Even as a professor, if you see her in the home, she would hold water for me to wash my hand. And I would tell her, Mummy, you are a professor and she would say, “I married Nkem before I became a professor.”
“One day, we went for medical check up and we found a lump at her lower abdomen. Doctors said she had seven months.
“But she said, ‘you are not the husband I married, you are always dejected, what happened?’ And I told her that the doctors said she had seven months to live. She said doctors have spoken, God has not spoken, seven months became two years and three months.
“Dora had a message for this country; it was a message of love, courage and steadfastness. Even when she was in pain, she still attended the national conference . You all heard what she said at the conference that ‘a country grows great when old men plant trees, whose shade they will not live to enjoy.
Some of the personalities requiem at mass, yesterday, were the First Lady, Patience Jonathan, Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, members of National Assembly, members of the Federal Executive Council, Chief Edwin Clark, Andy Uba, Stella Okoli, former ministers, Pauline Tallen, Odien Ajumogobia, Olusola Obada, among others.
Her death was a national loss — Sambo
The Vice President, Arch. Namadi Sambo said the death of Dora Akunyili was not only to her family but also to the country in general.
He described her as a patriotic and dedicated Nigerian, who excelled and succeeded in achieving the goal of whatever opportunity given to her.
She hit the Nigerian public imagination as a thunder — Maku
In his own tribute, the Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku who described the late Dora as one of the Nigeria’s most outstanding public servants, said the Professor hit the Nigerian public imagination as a thunder in dry season, immediately after she was appointed the Director-General of NAFDAC.
She was a reformer — SGF
Also in his own tribute, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim
Described her as a reformer and a true nationalist and accomplished professional.
Anyim, who also described the late Dora as a great Nigerian that brought NAFDAC to lime light said she also saved millions of lives and left indelible mark in the minds of the people.
She was a game changer — Health Minister
The Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu said he was pained and devastated by her death, and described her as an outstanding patriot who believed so much in the net
She was full of plans and energy — Okonjo -Iweala
The Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, described her as a woman of passion, strength and conviction who fought hard to make sure that fake drugs, both those who sell them and those who manufacture them, will become as much a thing of the past.